Gar­dener cook Colum­nist Jojo Tul­loh is tak­ing things easy this month as she con­sid­ers try­ing some­thing new when it comes to grow­ing food

As au­tumnn takes hold, Jojo is tak­ing things slowly and won­ders if per­haps she should try some­thing new when it comes to grow­ing food?

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents - WORDS JOJO TUL­LOH IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS SARAH YOUNG

Slow Food, the move­ment that started in Italy in the 1980s, be­gan as a reaction to bland, glob­alised fast food. The big idea, which has since spread around the world, was to pro­mote gas­tro­nomic plea­sure through re­gional va­ri­ety and tra­di­tional cook­ing tech­niques. In the UK, the Slow Food Move­ment’s Ark of Taste (slow­ high­lights UK rare breeds and cul­ti­vars, start­ing with ‘Alling­ton Pip­pin’ and end­ing with York­shire forced rhubarb. It’s a way of en­cour­ag­ing us all to both rel­ish what’s in­di­vid­ual about the place we’re in and help to pre­serve a wide range of foods for the fu­ture. This idea of seek­ing out the un­usual for the long term led me to the con­cept of slow gar­den­ing. By which I mean plant­ing the kind of ed­i­bles that will be with you for years. Th­ese in­clude all the com­mon al­lot­ment favourites, ap­ples, plums, red and black­cur­rants, car­doons, globe ar­ti­chokes, rhubarb, Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes and horse­rad­ish. But what about nut trees and un­usual peren­nial veg­eta­bles too?

An­nual veg­eta­bles sown, grown and har­vested in a sin­gle sea­son are a fairly in­ef­fi­cient way of grow­ing food if you think about all the ef­fort it takes and the hours you spend cul­ti­vat­ing the plants, only for them to be pulled up and com­posted at the end of the sea­son. By con­trast trees and peren­nial plants will pro­vide you with crops from year to year and more time to en­joy your gar­den. The more un­usual peren­ni­als, which you’ll find in spe­cial­ist nurs­eries, such as Crûg Farm ( and Edulis (, are of­ten as at­trac­tive as they are de­li­cious, so if you think you lack both time and space to grow your own food, try mix­ing some of th­ese into your bor­ders:

Al­lium am­pelo­pra­sum var. babing­tonii. Eas­ily raised from seed this peren­nial, clump-form­ing leek grows to a height of 1.5m with large flower heads that are a mix­ture of deep-pur­ple flow­ers and bul­bils. Scat­ter the bul­bils at the end of the sea­son for next year’s crop.

Tropae­olum tubero­sum var. lin­ea­mac­u­la­tum ‘Ken Aslet’. A halfhardy, herba­ceous peren­nial climber that is usu­ally grown for its strik­ing, bright-or­ange, trum­pet-shaped flow­ers. Its tu­bers, com­monly called mashua, are a tra­di­tional An­dean root veg­etable, eaten boiled.

Oenan­the ja­van­ica ‘Flamingo’. This low-grow­ing um­bel­lifer is more com­monly grown as an or­na­men­tal for its pink-edged leaves, but when young the steamed leaves have the flavour of car­rots.

Pachy­phragma macro­phyl­lum. From Tur­key and the Cau­ca­sus comes this charm­ing, shade-lov­ing, peren­nial bras­sica (a bit like hedge mus­tard), with rosettes of bright-green leaves and masses of white flow­ers in early spring. Use ten­der leaves in sal­ads or stir-fries.

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